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Gaining Perspective

I like to ask my son about his thoughts and feelings regarding serious world matters we encounter together.  It becomes a little puzzle game when he and I have an opportunity to really get at the heart of matters.  His perspective and mine often differ, and it makes for some good conversation.  For instance, last weekend, we were watching our favorite show, and the host ended the show with a spirited monologue detailing his feelings regarding injustices his town was experiencing.  I thought this a good opportunity to ask my son, “Whaddya Think?”     (Pause for Thought: “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and discipline.” – Proverbs 1:7  How often do you factor in God’s thoughts on a subject for your decision making?  How often does the Lord ask you, “What Do You Think”?)
 
I wanted my son to express his solution to the matter and see how he would accomplish the solution (i.e. laws, persuasive speeches, writing, etc.).  He determined to solve the matter by making everyone be Christians.  I asked him why, and he replied they would then know peace.  He explained people would go to church, and read the Bible, and therefore, demonstrate a peaceful, righteous, relationship with each other.  I asked him if reading the Bible and going to church had resulted in peace within his own house, and he determined it didn’t always.  We each confessed the way to peace isn’t in being a “Christian-Doing”, but by being in a continual conversation with God to gain His perspective on matters of living.  (Pause for Thought:  “So give your servant a discerning heart to govern your people and to distinguish between right and wrong.  For who is able to govern this great people of yours?  So God said to him, ‘Since you have asked for this and not for long life or wealth for yourself, nor have you asked for the death of your enemies but for discernment in administering justice, I will do what you have asked.  I will give you a wise and discerning heart, so that there will never have been anyone like you, nor will there ever be’.”—I Kings 3:9-12  Can you name three things the Lord gives, without hesitation, to His people?  Why, do you suppose, people choose not to ask God for wisdom and insight.  Have you ever asked God for wisdom concerning a matter in your life?  What were the short and long term results?)
 
A young man named Solomon was in a difficult situation.  The governance and justice of an entire kingdom rested on his shoulders.  God asked him, “Whaddya Think?”  Solomon said he thought wisdom, God’s perspective on matters, would bring the “shalom” (highest-good, peace) he and his kingdom required.  In essence, a prayerful conversation ensued, and when Solomon continued to ask God, “Whaddya Think”, the path towards the highest-good was found by Solomon and the nation of Israel.  It’s amazing when my son and I ask each other for our thoughts on a matter; it’s God’s truths from his word that we truly hear in our souls; like the verse that came to use while discussing our thoughts on justice and what people needed in the situation we heard about:  “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the PEACE that PASSES ALL UNDERSTANDING, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”   (Pause for Thought:  “The Spirit of the Lord will rest on him—the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding, the Spirit of counsel and of power, the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord—and he will delight in the fear of the Lord.”—Isaiah 11:2-3a  How often do people seek your advice or perspective on a matter?  What is the basis/authority of your responses?  What will you ask God for this week?)
 

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The Way

“Which way do you think we should go,” I asked my uncle as we stood tired and shivering in the woods of upper Michigan.  History had taught me as soon as the truck was out of sight, my uncle was officially lost.  “That way,” he said pointing with his finger in the direction he thought we should start walking.  I did an about-face and started walking in the opposite direction.  We arrived at the truck within minutes.   (Pause for Thought:  “There is a way that appears to be right, but in the end it leads to death.”—Proverbs 14:12.   Have you ever been lost?  How did being lost make you feel?  What thoughts passed through your mind?  Did these emotions and thoughts help or hurt your situation?)
 
It’s not surprising my uncle becomes befuddled when losing focus on where he’s come from and where he’s going.  His dad, my grandpa, would fail to arrive at our intended destination more than once during our outdoor adventures together.  Many times he would convince me to go with him to an obscure or relatively unknown fishing destination he found on a map.  Unfortunately, the minute he perceived the surroundings (roads, woods, etc.) to be “different” from the map directions; he would declare the map, or worse yet, the compass to be in error.  I can think of three such excursions in which we never arrived at the lake of opportunity.  I have since found all three lakes by trusting the map and compass.  (Pause for Thought: 
“Jesus answered, ‘I am the way and the truth and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through me.”—John 14:6.  What do you use as a moral compass?  How accurate is it?  Do you trust and walk in the light of Jesus’ statement, “I am THE WAY”?  If not, why?)
 
Science has proven people can’t physically walk in a straight line unless their eyes are focused on a fixed point.  Spiritually speaking, ever since sin entered the world, we have been prone to wander off course and find it difficult to get and stay on the straight path without our souls being fixed on the Holy Spirit.  I can safely say I’ve had times in my journey with Christ when I didn’t understand the path He and I were walking.  However, the more I’ve learned to trust Him, and enter His word while fixed on His spirit, the pathway in this journey seems clearer.  It reminds me of Henry Frapp’s statement in the movie, The Mountain Men—I paraphrase, “Have I ever been lost?  I’ve been a mite confused for three of four months—but I ain’t never been lost!”   (Pause for Thought:  “I will instruct you and teach you in THE WAY you should go; I will counsel you with my loving eye on you.”—Psalm 32:8.  How does it feel knowing God is fixed on you and your situations?  How have you listened and obeyed His counsel in the past?  What were the results?  What direction is He instructing you to take right now?  Will you follow?  Why or why not?)

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Cravings

The craving arrived right on time as it does every year.  Immediately after the holidays end and the excitement of football subsides, my ravenous appetite for fishing begins.  I start snacking on the new year’s fishing shows, pouring over fishing lure recipes, chewing on new lake maps, and feasting on new and old fishing dvd’s and encyclopedias. I seek out others with similar cravings to discuss new fishing lures, propose new fishing techniques and consider fish specifies left untouched by us in past ventures.   (Pause for Thought:  “Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, now that you have tasted that the Lord is good.”—I Peter 2:2-3.   What are you passionate about?  How has your passions changed your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors?  How passionate are you about living for and with Jesus?)
 
Without question, the season’s best fishing information comes from Linder Media; specifically, the show and video library called Angling Edge.  The fishermen of this series are entertaining and informative.  They fish the same Mid-Western waters I do for common and uncommon freshwater fish species.  At the end of the shows, Al Linder, founder and hall of fame fisherman, hosts a small inspirational segment.  In the segment, Mr. Linder will discuss how his faith and relationship with Jesus has changed and continues to change his life.  Between the fishing information and the spiritual passion of Al Linder, it is no wonder I’m drawn to the series.  (Pause for Thought:  “Jesus answered her, ‘If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water’.”—John 4:10.  How do you quench your passionate thirst for God?  Do you try pursuing Him without asking His advice?  What would you ask Him for to quench your cravings?  Have you ever asked God, through Jesus, to be filled with the Holy Spirit?)
 
I’m grateful Jesus had, and still has, a passion for fishermen and fishing (see Luke 5:1-7).  I have a passion to be where His spirit is, and he meets my spirit when I’m fishing–along with other times, places, and situations.  Through savory prayer and feeding on His Word, I can hear His voice and gather strength and instruction from His spirit.  Sunday worship in His house satisfies my spiritual appetite with awe and wonder as I digest the fact His kingdom is on earth and in heaven.
 
The purest form of interaction with Christ, and the one my soul craves the most, is when I engage (talk, listen, observe, work alongside, etc.) someone filled with the Holy Spirit.  Jesus becomes very real when I encounter a person who loves the Lord enough to ask to be like Him.  The Holy Spirit enables us to be like Jesus and enables us to be with Jesus.  Will you ask the Lord to fill you with His spirit and satisfy your cravings?  (Pause for Thought:  “As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, O God.  My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.  When can I go and meet with God?”—Psalms 42:1-2.  “For where two or three come together in my name, there am I (Jesus) with them.”—Matthew 18:20.  Who do you know that is filled with the Holy Spirit?  How often do you spend time with them?  How do you know they are filled?  Will you ask them what it is like to be filled with the Spirit?)
 

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Sincere Flattery

To my four year-old mind, the greatest people living were my dad and cowboys.  Now I didn’t exactly understand what a plumber did, though I knew because my dad was one, we got to eat and live in a nice house. I knew cowboys punched cattle, ate outside, and shot pistols because I saw them do these things on TV.  The thing that brought these two icons together for me in my evaluation of greatness was shaving.  That’s right, shaving whiskers with a razor.  The great people in my life shaved.  I wanted to be great.  Therefore, I wanted a razor and shave, so I could be great too.   (Pause for Thought:  “Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.”—Ephesians 5:1-2.   Who did you imitate as a child?  Why?  Who do you imitate now?  Why?)
 
Oscar Wilde said, “Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery that mediocrity can pay to greatness.”  As I finish these little articles regarding “living up” to God’s grace filled majesty through appreciation, devotion, and imitation, I realize I can never earn the place (Heaven) or position (Royal Priest) He has given me, but I look the part and give glory to God by being like His son, Jesus Christ, who GAVE.  Being who I am in Christ will result in my giving ME as a forGIVER, GIVER of tithes and offerings, GIVER of talents and abilities, GIVER of time and energy, GIVER of attention and encouragement, and so on.  Paul calls this living a life of sacrifice.  (Pause for Thought:  “Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship”—Romans 12:1.  How have you consciously tried to imitate Jesus this week?  What were the results?  Were the results consistent with the results Jesus received?  How do you/can you know?)
 

I often ask my wife and son if I look like Jesus to them.  I don’t mean in physical appearance, and they don’t think as such.  If I have looked like Jesus to them, it’s been in the way I gave.  They don’t say I look like Jesus because I did my devotions, or taught a Sunday School class, or wrote an article.  They say I look like Jesus if I gave encouragement to them or someone else, or if I gave to someone in ministry out of my pocket, or if I gave love and attention to an unlovable/unnoticeable, or even if I gave my story (testimony) to someone who didn’t know Jesus the way I do. Cowboys gave, and still give, me great pleasure to watch.  My dad gave me a place (house) and position (physical) being on this earth.  My heavenly Father gave me completeness in everything, including all time (eternity), to share it with Him.  I think He is worth imitating.  (Pause for Thought:  “Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus.”—Philippians 2:5.  How do you feel, emotionally, about living a life of sacrifice?  How is Paul’s instruction to us in Romans different than the world’s instruction to us?  What is happening and has happened when the world’s way is followed?  What happened to you because Jesus lived a sacrificial life?  Who will you imitate?)


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Bearing Devotion

“Don’t come between momma bear and her cub,” were the words from my Dad as he witnessed someone taking responsibility for my son in the presence of my wife.  My dad often refers to my wife as “momma bear”.  It stands to reason since female grizzly bears are quite possessive of their responsibility for raising their offspring, and they demand intense devotion from the cubs while instructing them on the course of survival.  I’ve seen the Ursus arctos Horribilis (Latin for Mainland Grizzly Bear) manifest in my wife and dish out quite the scolding to perpetrator and son alike.  Jesus takes his responsibility for his children very seriously too.   (Pause for Thought:  “Better to meet a bear robbed of her cubs than a fool in his folly”—Proverbs 17:12.  “Jesus said to his disciples: ‘Things that cause people to sin are bound to come, but woe to the person through whom they come.  It would be better for him to be thrown into the sea with a millstone tied around his neck than for him to cause one of these little ones to sin’.”—Luke 17:1-2. What emotions do you feel when you think Jesus is responsible for your completeness in body, soul, and spirit?  What questions do you have in regards to His and your responsibility in your relationship with Him?  If you are a parent, how do you want your children to view and feel about your responsibility to them?  Should/Do you feel the same way towards God since He is your heavenly Father?)
 
I’ve just finished a book on the history of grizzly bear encounters in North America.  It’s amazing how many human-bear interactions are the results of the protectiveness of a she-bear for her cubs.  Cubs have no fear of humans, and the she-grizzly is quit relentless in her efforts to keep people from hurting her cubs.  Many accounts documenting a grizzly’s mauling and/or killing of a person, even after she has been mortally wounded, illustrate her tenacity and relentless effort to responsibly care for her cubs.
 
A mother grizzly will teach her cubs to avoid not only people, but also male grizzly bears.  A male grizzly will kill cubs, so the mothers will go into season for mating.  Many are the times, a sow grizzly will attack a boar grizzly larger than her to insure the cubs survive and avoid serious threat.
 
She is responsible to show her little ones where, what, and when to eat.  Contrary to popular thought, grizzly bears don’t eat everything all the time.  A grizzly will steer clear of a lowly skunk, and if they obey, cubs will not eat a porcupine because of the mother’s instruction.  The quills will cover the cubs’ mouth, so they cannot eat the foods the mother shows her cubs, thus making the threat of starvation a reality.  The mother will instruct the bear cubs to not eat and slow down during the winter, so as to reserve their energy (Sabbath?).  A cub or young adult grizzly that tries to forage through winter, instead of hibernating, will starve to death.  (Pause for Thought:  “While they were eating, Jesus took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to his disciples saying, ‘Take and eat; this is my body.’  Then he took the cup, gave thanks and offered it to them, saying, ‘Drink from it, all of you.  This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins’.”—Matthew 26:26-28.  In what ways has Jesus cared for you?  Your family?  Has He let you down?  In what area of your life do you want to trust Him more?)
 
Like my wife feels her reputation as a mother is on the line when people, including my son, see her taking responsibility for my son’s upbringing, Jesus’ feels His reputation is on the line, as our Savior, for His taking responsibility for establishing us with a place and position within His kingdom.  The least we can do as His disciples (devoted ones) is obey Him.  (Pause for Thought:  “If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father’s commands and remain in his love.  I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.”—John 15:10-11)
 

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Appreciative Understanding

Ants and Aphids.  Two completely different insects, yet they enjoy a relationship that brings forth a beautiful example of God’s wonderful design.  The aphid is a defenseless insect with many known enemies and threats.  Ants are industrious and purposeful and live out a quite intelligent life.  So much so, ants of the “dairying” variety will protect and support a healthy population of aphids instead of destroying them in their helpless condition.  The aphid, in return, will exude an excess of “honey dew” from the saps it sucks from plants, and in gratefulness for what the ants do and who they are, they allow the ants to consume the honey dew from off their body. (Pause for Thought:  “Blessed are those who have LEARNED to acclaim you, who walk in the light of your presence, O Lord.  They rejoice in your name all day long; they exult in your righteousness.”—Psalm 89:15-16.  What divine design of God’s have you witnessed that makes you want to enthusiastically and publicly worship Him?  How often do you point out God’s design for your family/children, so they can celebrate in worship?)
 
We have no further to go, in God’s Word, than a few pages before we encounter one who showed his appreciation in understanding God’s divine design for redemption.  Abel gave God the perfect first-fruit of his flock of sheep as a blood sacrifice of gratefulness.  He had heard of God’s provision of a slain animal to cover the emotional and spiritual condition of nakedness, separation, and exposure of his parents after they sinned in the Garden.  Adam and Eve attempted to cover their sin with leaves, but God in His purpose-filled design, shed the blood of an animal to atone for their sin, and give them clothes.  Abel was grateful for this and demonstrated his appreciation in worshipful understanding.  He knew the truth of God’s design and acknowledged it to God.  (Pause for Thought:  “In fact, the law requires that nearly everything be cleansed with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness—Hebrews 9:22.  “God is spirit, and his worshippers must worship in spirit and in truth.”—John 4:24.  What kind of items do you have around your house illustrating God’s divine design and intention for His creation-i.e. books, music, art, food, clothes, etc.  How often do you point these out to your family and children as a way of appreciating God’s design and teaching them to understand, so they can live up to God’s intention?  Will you do so this week?)
 

I have encountered people who suppose God must look and consider them in the same they look and consider ants.  I’m not sure how they can rate people as high as ants.  I wonder if that is why Cain’s story turned out the way it did.  Cain never understood or accepted the Divine design.  He repeated the mistake his parents made in trying to cover his sins, and maybe the sins of the world at the time (see Genesis 3:15), with his own efforts from what came from the ground.  I imagine Adam, Eve, and Abel tried to explain God’s design of care and provision and imitate it for him, but with the bitterness of an ungrateful heart, Cain lacked a worshipful spirit, and he continued in the iniquity of his ways.  We need to consider and be the aphid.  (Pause for Thought:  “After this I looked and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb.  They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands.  And they cried out in a loud voice:  ‘Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne and to the Lamb’.”—Revelation 8:13.  What do you need saved from in your life right now?  How does/will your rescue fit into the Divine Design?  How will you show your appreciation for your place and being within God’s design?)


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Means & Ends

Philosophy 101 taught us to think rationally and logically regarding the world around us.  For instance, if A=B and B=C, then A=C.  These little formulas became the grounds for our understanding of things perceived in nature, regarded in character, and encountered in literature.  Political Science courses taught us to use things understood rationally and logically in world history and governments to determine outcomes and create change.  We studied and argued concepts like, “Is it better to be feared than loved?” and “Does the end justify the means or do the means justify the end?” (Pause for Thought:  “And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.—Romans 8:30.  Notice the “where” and “when” in this verse.  Our justification and glorification is here and now.  What kind of freedom does this give you?  How will you use your freedom for others?)
 
Please allow me to refer back to last week’s article where it was proposed that Jesus made certain all of the big uncertainties in living a human life—“What happens when I die?” and “Who am I?”  Because Jesus was who he was—both God and human—and because he experienced every known “unknown” mankind could ever experience, he determined our place (justification) and our being (glorification).  He made the ending certain.  We can speak and live with certainty as to where we are going and who’s we are.  Therefore, in the case of Christ’s HIStory and government, the end justifies the means.  (Pause for Thought:  “Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen?  It is God who justifies.  Who is he that condemns?  Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God interceding for us.  Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?  Shall trouble or hardship, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness or danger or sword?—Romans 8:33-35.  How is Jesus Christ’s government different from worldly governments?  Why, do you suppose, we place such conviction and personal attention to maintaining shifting governments instead of following a King and Kingdom of such certainty?  What would the world look like if earthly governments pledged their allegiance to Jesus?  What would your family look like if they pledged their allegiance to Jesus?)
 

If Jesus’ end justifies our place and being, what does that mean for us?  What then should be our response to all of this?  If you are like most Christians I encounter, they are on a path of trying to earn this justification and glorification.  But if something has already been given to you, how can you earn it?  You can’t.  You are supposed to use it.  I figure, scripturally speaking, we use it in three ways—APPRECIATION=WORSHIP (Come, let us bow down in worship, let us kneel before the Lord our Maker; for he is our God and we are the people of his pasture, the flock under his care.—Psalm 95:6-7); DEVOTION=OBEDIENCE (Peter and the other apostles replied: “We must obey God rather than men!”—Acts 5:29); and IMITATION=SACRIFICE (Therefore, I urge you brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship.—Romans 12:1).  (Pause for Thought:  How does knowing the end make it easier to live out your appreciation, devotion, and imitation of Jesus?  In what practical ways will you live up to your justification and glorification in front of others this week?)

 

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Living Up

I’m always fascinated when I meet someone who reads the last chapter of a book first.  I’ve been told knowing the outcome allows for a more fulfilling reading experience.  I suppose once the uncertainty of the ending is known, the means to the end is better understood and more appreciated.  Maybe that is why Jesus took care of humanity’s most uncertain aspects to living—“What happens when I die, and who am I?”—when He arrived, lived, died, rose, and ascended.  The last chapter is a foregone conclusion.  (Pause for Thought:  “Brothers, we do not want you to be ignorant about those who fall asleep, or to grieve like the rest of men, who have no hope.  We believe that Jesus died and rose again, so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in Him.”—I Thessalonians 4:13-14.  What uncertainties are you and your family facing this year?  How does knowing death is nothing but a short sleep with Jesus help you face these uncertainties?  Remember, when you fall asleep at night, you don’t cease to be who you were when you awake.  Since this is so, what do you suppose we carry with us into Heaven?  What do you suppose is left behind?)
 
My wife, son, and I always pray before we part for work and school in the mornings.  The first school day of this year, I asked my son what he wanted to work on and perfect this semester.  I was thinking he would request prayer for an academic or intellectual pursuit, but instead, he said he wanted to know more about what a Christian does and who a Christian is.  His request exuded uncertainty.  He is currently living in an “earn it or lose it” state of being.  (Pause for Thought:  “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His wonderful light.  Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God, once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.”—I Peter 2:9-10.  How does a royal priesthood look and act?  Are you basing your response on Jesus’s example or the world’s?  What, if any, difference is there between Jesus’s example of royalty and priesthood and the world’s?  What “certainties” does Jesus’s example bring with it?)
 

I want my son to understand a Christian (Jesus Christ Follower) doesn’t try to earn the places, rights, and privileges given to him, but focuses on living up to these gifts given freely by his heavenly Father.  My son’s eventual physical death is just falling asleep and waking up with Jesus—again.  Nothing can stop that from happening.  My son is a king in the order of Jesus—no one can take that away.  I want these grace-filled certainties to be the basis for his living and wisdom.  His place, my place, is guaranteed always—now and forever—at our Father’s table.  Our earthly failures will not be a reason for our removal from our place at His table, but an opportunity for us to live up to the gracious gift and accompanying responsibilities from our Lord Jesus Christ.  (Pause for Thought:  “You are those who have stood by me in my trials.  And I confer on you a kingdom, just as my Father conferred one on me, so that you may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom and sit on thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.”—Luke 22:28-30.  What is the basis for being a Christ follower?  How do you view trials when they appear?  Do you try to earn your way closer to the King?  Do you believe the trial has come as a punishment for something you did or didn’t do?  How do you view Jesus’ authority and yours when these trials arrive?  If you will allow me, I would like to speak more to the subject of “living up” in next week’s article.)


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Collections & Revelations

My son and I collect baseball cards.  I’ve been collecting since 1977, and he started seven years ago when he was five years of age.  It’s a great pastime for the two of us to be together, and it’s interesting to discuss why a player’s card means so much to us.  We have our sentiments, team preferences, player performances, and other reasons why we get excited to open a pack of cards and get who or what we get.  In fact, New Year’s Eve kicks-off our baseball card collecting for the year as tradition dictates we each open a box of unwrapped cards and compare who got the “best” for our endeavor. (Pause for Thought:  “In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, we command you, brothers, to keep away from every brother who is idle and does not live according to the tradition (teaching) you received from us”—II Thessalonians 3:6.  Do you have any collections and/or traditions that become especially meaningful to you during the Holy Days?  How have you conveyed the reasons for your traditional interests to your family?  Have you been able to use these collections/traditions as a way of revealing Christ’s work in you and for you? )
 
There is a monetary value placed on these cards by collectors and appraisers.  Some cards are worth a lot of money right out of the pack, though they may depreciate in value over time, while others might actually increase in value.  Those cards with unique “flaws” may actually be worth more than if they were issued as intended.  What fascinates me about these cards is they are just that – cards.  They’re photos of a person on one side of cardboard or thick paper stock with a bunch of numbers on the other.  These cards are really only worth what someone is willing to pay for them.  (Pause for Thought:  “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field.  When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field”—Matthew 13:44.  Have you ever thought about how valuable you are or how much you’re worth?  Jesus has made us as valuable as He is.  By giving up his place at His Father’s side, and by giving up His life on earth to redeem—purchase—us back from the prince of the air, He has given us the value of Himself.  Where do you look to find your value?  How do you and your family “value” others?)
 
My son and I like to look on EBay or thumb through a card price guide to see just what people MIGHT be willing to pay for our pieces of cardboard.  We like to sort them out according to our preferences, and we actually have a “baseball room” where we store and display our cards.  To be honest, the cards we like to show off aren’t “worth” that much, because the cards aren’t of superstars, and most people would pass them by.  However, it’s not the monetary price for the cards that make them special to us; it’s the relational sentiment, memories, and stories that mean everything.  Isn’t that like the Kingdom of Heaven?  (Pause for Thought:  “Yet to all who received Him, to those who believed in His name, He gave the right to become Children of God—born not of natural decent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.—John 1:12-13.  How can you and your family value others at Christmas the way Christ values us?  What will you teach your children to be WORTHwhile over the Holy Days?)
 

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to all God’s Children!


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Deceptive Distractions

If they were obvious, I wouldn’t fall for them.  If they produced immediate deadly consequences, I would resist.  However, due to their subtlety, I lose my focus on Christ and become ensnared.  I’m talking about the deceptive distractions used by the world’s false prophets and their teaching.  I often look for them within the church’s walls, but to be honest, I see them more in my home (via TV, computer, radio, etc.), place of employment (i.e. selfish business practitioners), schools (by providing untrue and irrational relational advice/expectations), etc.  Even family members have been used by the enemy to loosen my footing upon the Solid Rock.  No wonder Jesus likens false teachers and prophets to ravenous wolves.  (Pause for Thought:  “Watch out for false prophets.  They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly, they are ferocious wolves.”—Matthew 7:15.  How do the false teachers in your life “come to you”?  How quickly do you determine them to be false?  What do you use to determine the un-truths?  What measures do you take upon discovering the falsehoods?)
 
Contrary to popular belief, a wolf and its pack will pursue and kill about anything—not just the young, old, or weak.  If conditions are right, and the pack is in accord, wolves will kill a full grown, healthy bull moose—the largest animal in the deer family.  God has given the bull-moose razor sharp hooves and massive antlers, and these divine defensive weapons will more than cause a hurt for the wolf.  Wolves know this and understand, to successfully attack a moose, they must cause it to turn and run.  The alpha female wolf will feign (deceptive distraction) a frontal charge at the moose in hopes of getting it running out of fear.  The pack will pursue the beast nipping and biting its hind quarters to weaken it from exhaustion and loss of blood.  (Pause for Thought:  “I am sending you out like sheep among wolves.  Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves.”—Matthew 10:16.  What does Jesus mean by being “shrewd as snakes” and “innocent as doves”?  Is something or someone pursuing you and your family right now?  Have you inquired of the Lord in regards to gaining wisdom on how to handle the deceptive and/or distractive situation?)
 
Once the moose is exhausted, the pack will wait a long time until it becomes convenient and free of harm to kill the moose.  Only when the moose has become completely distracted with fatigue and fear, will the pack kill it by attacking its head and throat.  (Pause for Thought:  “But each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed.  Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.”—James 1:14-15.  As a father, I’ve noted some of my own rationalizations and statements that tell me I’m being deceived, distracted, and pursued.  I’ve learned to listen and watch for these telling signs in my son and family:  “It’s not fair…”, “I don’t deserve to be…”, “When is it my time/opportunity to…”, “At least I’m better than…”, “But it’s Christmas {substitute any event, holiday, or happening when Christ isn’t the center focus of attention} time…”).
 
Our enemy, the Devil, is never distracted, however, our Savior and King is never distracted either.  God knew, before he made us, what it would take to turn us around and for us to stand our ground when the Enemy comes to us – Emmanuel – God With Us! “What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death?  Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!—Roman 7:24-25.  Your family and you are worth the Son of God.
 

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